The Ministry of Translation Development

Luís Ángel Fernández Hermana - @luisangelfh
22 August, 2017
Editorial: 126
Fecha de publicación original: 30 junio, 1998

The town’s bagpipe never sounds good

The attempt on behalf of the Ministry of Development to increase telephone rates in Spain, primarily those which affect Internet users, is not only an act of highway robbery perpetrated in broad daylight and with malice aforethought on the part of the Government of this country, it also means they are shooting themselves in the foot. All the talk about the vital importance of the Information Society, the role of innovation in dealing with the communications technology revolution, “the need not to miss the boat to the future”, etc., becomes just so much hollow chit-chat when accompanied by measures of this kind. Internauts in this country are about to start paying telephone rates which increase by 150% after 10 minutes connected. The impact of an assault of this kind, will, at the very least, have a paralysing effect on the booming development which the information and knowledge industry has been undergoing so far. And the moment they have chosen to fire at users comes, as is so often the case with these administrative measures, at the worst possible time.

Over recent months we have seen that something I indicated as a tendency exactly two years ago is now coming about. I said: “At the moment, the critical mass necessary to take up a privileged position on the emerging market created by the Net is not very big. But, sometime before Christmas, we will already be talking about much bigger dimensions (and therefore a greater quantity of resources). It will be then that we discover that, yet again, foreign companies, and in particular American ones, will be dictating the basic conditions under which the market develops and the ones in the best position to start to turn their English services over into Spanish or, more directly, to move here everything that they are already doing for the Hispanic community in the United States. We will be buying their material, developed abroad; thanks to their marketing prowess, they will be everywhere and, as a result, attempts to cultivate services which are closer to home more necessary and more useful, will be strangled at birth. Disney (or America Online which in this case is the same thing) will once again have built a Port Aventura theme park at the centre of the Web, when what we really need are our own services which satisfy our own social needs.” (see editorial “The Language Industry”, 23/7/96) Well, as happens with all predictions, another Christmas went by before it came about, but there was not one translation less. Over the last few weeks an unending stream of new services have been announced, which after a maturation process in the US, are now being offered totally in Spanish (as well as Catalan and Galician). This does not mean the translation of just a few pages but the conversion of commercial operations in their entirety into another language. The penultimate has been the handing over of shops for SMB’s, keys in hand, equipped with all the technological backup for electronic commerce and business management via the Web. The avalanche will grow in dimension and variety. And, the possibility of containing it –the possibility of developing our own content from a local industry– is being strangled by the telephone tariffs policy.

The Secretary General of Communications for the Ministry of Development, José Manuel Villar, at a public meeting held in Madrid last week, made light of the fact that tariffs for connecting to the Internet might increase by 50% at peak hours/times. It is clear then, that Mr Villar is of the opinion that big business is the mainstay of the development of the Internet and that the proposed increase will not affect them. Mr Villar obviously doesn’t know yet, despite his place in such an august Secretariat, that the development of the Information Society is a product, amongst other things, of the enormous capacity for innovation on the part of hundreds of small businesses and, particularly, tens of thousands of users who don’t consider themselves business people, and even less so, companies, although, in fact, they act as such. This sector will be the hardest hit by the proposed increases. If they do go through, it will be interesting to keep a close watch on statistics on internaut population growth in the country to find out just what impact telephone bills will have, given that the variables remain more or less static. However, the most important consequences will undoubtedly be those affecting content on the Net, because any decrease in the number of participants in this process will open the door to innovations presented as packages coming from outside the country. And, it goes without saying, they will have excellent translations and, if necessary, a Mediterranean server to give them just the right stereotypical touch.

In the meantime, internauts in Spain are still waiting for the fruits which the end of Telefonica’s monopoly should bring. If the Internet is giving rise to a new knowledge and information industry, we would like to compete with the US on an equal footing, at least as far as telephone rates are concerned. Given that, we will take on the job of translating our services into English so that they can take a look at them, compare and make their choice. But give us the chance, at least, with a flat rate suitable for the importance of this strategic sector.

Translation: Bridget King.